Kashmir: The widening gulf

That a 29-year old Kashmiri Ph.D. student in the Aligarh University had left his studies, joined a terrorist group and was shot dead by the security forces on Thursday shows the extent of alienation of the Kashmiris from India. Manan Bashir Wani had the prospect of a bright career before him. That he chose to leave his studies and took a gun in hand to join the ranks of militants raises serious questions about the correctness of India’s Kashmir policy. The very epithet ‘terrorist’ suggests that they are no part of the mainstream, but a small isolated group which has turned against the State and is not supported by the people. But what happened after he was killed raises many questions.
The news of his death led to stone pelting and clashes between the people and the security forces. Road blockades were set up at several places to prevent the movement of the troops. Mediapersons were prevented by the police from proceeding not only toward the place of his funeral but even toward his residence and meet his parents. To cut off communications from the area the Internet service was stopped. Obviously, the ‘terrorists’ enjoy the sympathy of the people. This is the most worrying factor and raises the question whether New Delhi’s Kashmir policy is not proving to be counter-productive. The policy, purportedly, is to isolate the terrorists from the people. But this is not happening. The gulf between the people and the Government of India is every widening.
The civic elections in Kashmir which were boycotted by the PDP and the NC have only highlighted the extent of alienation. While Jammu saw a healthy voter turnout, in the Kashmir Valley only about three per cent voters exercised their franchise, reducing the polls to a farce. In a way it is reminiscent of the Assam Assembly elections way back in the early eighties which were boycotted by all political parties but the Congress. Congress candidates were elected unopposed by a very small percentage of voters. Eventually the ‘elected’ Congress Government was thrown out, new elections were held and the AGP returned to power on the crest of a wave of popular support. The BJP candidates who have been elected unopposed in Kashmir do not have the mandate of the people behind them. It is time the NDA Government reviewed its entire Kashmir policy and took initiatives to break the impasse.

Monday, 15 October, 2018